Live Review for Metal Maniacs Magazine
So I just moved to Brooklyn, home of Malcolm X, “Brooklyn-style” pizza, and more skinny-jean-wearing hipsters than you can shake an ironically angled stick at. You’ll also find Europa, a Eurotrash dance club that moonlights as a metal Mecca, occupying a dingy block in this particular little slice of New Yawk. Every few weeks, an influx of black leather and long hair pours into the neighborhood, confounding tourists and, by now I’m sure, leaving the natives wholly unimpressed. Europa’s the kind of place that has curtains of beads separating the bar from the johns, with flashing blue lights, candlelit corners, and a reputation for hosting shows that carry on until the wee hours of the morning – a rep I was wholly unaware of when I decided to hit up a show there on a Sunday night. Not just any show, either; a nine-band thrash “fest” (meaning, “We booked too many bands, so we’re gonna charge you thirty bucks and you’re gonna like it”), featuring the “reunited” incarnation of Possessed.
The show started late, with Philly warlords Sacrificial Blood kicking off the festivities. Their basement-tested thrashitude kicked off the first (and last) circle pit of the evening, and led into a slew of similar, but slightly less-interesting nouveau thrash bands that probably tear shit up in their respective hometowns. Cleveland’s Midnight stood out, partially for their immensely-satisfying brew of thrashy black metal, but mainly because they insisted on wearing executioner-style hoods during their set (might explain why the drumming was so sloppy, eh?) and led up to the first “big band” of the night, Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. The Philly thrash brigaders tore through a couple new songs before they were unceremoniously cut off – turns out the show was running a bit later than anticipated. It’s a damn shame, as I’d say they’re one of the more underrated bands out there today. Blood Feast and Sadistic Intent served up some perfectly serviceable, if not damn good, vintage death/thrash but failed to get my neck snapping; one can only listen to the same riff so many times without wishing for some experimental free jazz or something to liven shit up (or at least some blastbeats).
Mortician are ridiculously heavy live, but I just could not take them seriously, what with Will Rahmer jerking around up on stage like a meticulously-groomed robot. The man’s a walking bicep. You’d think that playing bass in a uber-groovy death metal band would give the guy some rhythm, but sometimes…logic doesn’t work?
At War whipped the crowd into a frenzy, playing classic thrash that hasn’t aged a bit in their twenty years of boozin’ and ‘bangin and thoroughly proved that, to hell with trendy “retro” bands - the heart and soul of thrash metal lies within the old guard. There’s really nothing else like it.
Now, we all know that Possessed circa 2008 is not quite the Possessed of days of yore. An entirely different band plus one founding member does not a reunion make,
but try telling that to Jeff Becerra. Wheelchair be damned, he was still thrashing like it was 1985, and his voice - the guttural, throat-shredding rasp that launched a thousand death metal bands – was nastier than ever. Becerra and the Sadistic Intent boys tore through a full range of classics, including plenty off Seven Churches (“Evil Warriors” in particular slayed) and ending, of course, on the immortal “Death Metal.” He was more or less incoherent between songs, and was obviously far from sober, but whenever the music kicked back in he was right back there, screaming his heart out like only he can and, as is more than fitting, acting like a soul possessed. Bands become legends for a reason, and seeing Jeff Becerra that night was all the proof one could ever need that Possessed is one of those bands. Let him tour with whoever the fuck he wants; I don’t care if the next Possessed tour has David fucking Bowie on bass. I’ll still be there in the front row, banging my head, throwing the horns, and wishing I’d been born twenty years sooner.